<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=192888919167017&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">
Saturday, March 2, 2024
March 2, 2024

Linkedin Pinterest

Chick-fil-A patrons overwhelm lot shared by 2 other businesses

By , Columbian staff writer
4 Photos
Cones and towing signs line the shared parking lot of the real estate office of Terrie Cox and Chick-fil-A on Southeast Mill Plain Boulevard.
Cones and towing signs line the shared parking lot of the real estate office of Terrie Cox and Chick-fil-A on Southeast Mill Plain Boulevard. (Ariane Kunze/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

A chicken sandwich meal at Chick-fil-A costs about $6.50. That same meal plus a visit from the towing company costs about $356.50, warns neighbor Terrie Cox.

“That’s a pretty expensive chicken sandwich,” said the real estate agent, whose offices share a parking lot with the fast-food chain’s new location in the Bennington neighborhood.

The Georgia-based fast-food restaurant opened its new location in early September to much fanfare at the corner of Southeast Mill Plain Boulevard and 164th Avenue. Hundreds camped out, thanks partly to a promotion that offered free lunch for a year to the first 100 customers.

But you wouldn’t guess the grand opening was six weeks ago by looking at the traffic during the lunch and dinner hours. Employees navigate traffic and take orders at the drive-through while traffic hints at spilling out onto the streets.

The congestion has bit into businesses that share the parking lot, Cox’s real estate company Terrie Cox Home Concepts and the Mexican restaurant Catedral Tapatia.

“It was awful, my friend,” said Isabel Moran, an assistant manager at the restaurant, who said the parking lot isn’t as packed as it was in September. “It was a nightmare in the beginning. It was so bad.”

The three businesses share fewer than 100 parking spaces, some of which are reserved, with signs, or blocked by big traffic cones. Cox, who said she doesn’t blame the owners of Chick-fil-A, said that doesn’t stop people from moving cones or even parking in handicap spots.

“It’s either (people) who can’t read or think, ‘I don’t care, I’m going to do it’ and they have their cars towed,” she said.

According to Moran, the congestion has cost Catedral Tapatia 30 to 40 percent of its revenues since Chick-fil-A opened. Customers either don’t come or park at Target and walk across the street. The owners have cut hours for some employees.

When it’s packed, Moran said the morass reminds him of a crash on the freeway.

“I would lie if I said they don’t hurt us,” he said, adding that they haven’t called any towing companies. “Maybe we are good guys; maybe we are stupid,” he said. “We’ve given them a few warnings. Some days, people don’t even care.”

Chick-fil-A franchise owner John Dombroski said that the company wasn’t aware of the logjam.

“We are thrilled with the outpouring of support in the weeks following our grand opening,” Dombroski said in a statement released through a public relations company. “We aren’t aware of any traffic issues but are always focused on providing efficient service for our guests and being a good neighbor in our community.”

Chick-fil-A, headquartered in Atlanta, has about 2,000 locations nationwide.

Customers Don and Suzanne Hartley, both retired, said they became fans of Chick-fil-A while they lived in Atlanta and were excited to hear about the east Vancouver location. They said they thought the company could have done better with its location.

“If it was me, I wouldn’t have put it on the corner since it’s going to be such a tremendous draw,” Don Hartley said. “They could have put it someplace else. They could have put it in a field and (people will) drive all over to a remote place to eat there.”

“They’re very, very busy, but they must be well-organized,” said Suzanne Hartley.

Columbian staff writer